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Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer

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One of the largest and easiest to hike to bodies of water within the sprawling 393,360-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Lake Dorothy is not for the solitude seeker. Expect scores of first-time hikers, neophyte backpackers, and fledgling anglers scurrying about the shores of this almost 2-mile-long sparkling lake. If it's a real wilderness experience you seek, and a satisfying day-long hike as well, push farther to the twin lakes of Bear and Deer.

Surrounded by virgin forest centuries old and shiny rocky ledges scoured by ancient ice flows, Lake Dorothy would still be a popular destination if the hike were twice as long. Unfortunately, the short distance that makes this lake an ideal destination for children and those not quite yet in shape, also invites visitors unenlightened about Leave No Trace principles and the idea of walking lightly on the land. Do your part to help minimize negative impacts on this special place.

The over-built trail takes off into primeval timber and in little time enters the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The trail soon comes upon cascading Camp Robber Creek, following it for a bit before crossing it on a sturdy bridge. Here, among polished granite slabs, the creek plunges into a deep pool-an inviting spot on a hot afternoon. The trail then begins to climb more steeply. Reconstructed from the washed out track it replaced, the new trail is an improvement, but the steps are very high. Near the lake's outlet, a day use trail continues straight to the outlet and lakeshore, reaching the long lake's littered-with-logs outlet (elev. 3060 ft) at 1.8 miles.

This short and easy hike wasn't always this way. Back in the 1950s the trip to Dorothy required an all-day trek on trail up the East Fork Miller River valley. But by the 1960s the Forest Service (the same agency that converted many of our old-growth forests into "managed" woodlots) converted most of that trail to road. In fact, the bureaucrats were intent on punching the road all the way to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, creating a Lake Dorothy Highway. Good grief! Fortunately, the creation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the 1970s permanently put a halt to that scheme, keeping Dorothy and her aquatic neighbors in the backcountry, where they rightfully belong.

If you want to visit those neighbors, carry on. The trail uplake switchbacks up to the left. Continue on good albeit at times rocky trail for nearly 2 miles along Dorothy's eastern shoreline. Pass backcountry campsites, lounging ledges, and plenty of scenic spots along the way. At the south end of the lake the trail turns west, crossing a tumbling inlet creek. The bridge across this creek is out. If your balance is good you can hop rocks across this wide stream. Otherwise it requires a chilly ford. Beyond, the trail follows the lake shore for awhile before ascending 750 steep and rocky feet up a forested ridge dividing the Skykomish and Snoqualmie watersheds.

At 4.75 miles from the trailhead, reach a 3800-foot gap in the ridge. Pause for huckleberries and viewing down to island-dotted Dorothy. Then continue on your way, dropping about 200 feet and reaching Bear Lake (elev. 3610 ft) in about a half mile. Its nearly identical rounded twin, Deer Lake (elev. 3583 ft), is easily reached by walking another half mile of trail. The lakes are ringed with old forest and there's nary another human soul to be found.
Driving Directions:

From Everett follow US 2 east for 45 miles. Just before milepost 46 turn right at sign for "Money Creek Campground" onto the Old Cascade Highway. Proceed for 1.1 miles, turning right onto Miller River Road (Forest Road 6412). Follow this generally good gravel road for 9.5 miles to its terminus at the trailhead (elev. 2250 ft).

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 234 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer — Apr 12, 2014 — cwcoleman
Overnight
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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6 miles one way, 4 on the road and 2 on the trail. The road is clear until about 4 miles fro...
6 miles one way, 4 on the road and 2 on the trail.
  
The road is clear until about 4 miles from the trailhead. There is a bridge on Miller River Road at this 4 mile mark, and there is a tree down about .5 mile from here. As the snow clears, this tree will need to be removed before vehicle traffic can pass.

The snow on the road is patchy. The last mile to the trailhead it is more steady. About 1 foot deep. Melting quickly. I'd guess 2 weeks and it will be clear.

One other truck was parked with us (we helped them push out of the snow). Our two groups appeared to be the first up this road/trail.

Posthole without snowshoes. We put on ours about 2 miles from the trailhead and it helped. The other dudes went without and made it. Microspikes didn't do much because the snow was so slushy (even in the early morning).
  
At the trailhead there was much less snow. Bathroom locked. The first mile was on and off. We went with boots for this section. After the first mile on the trail there was much more snow. Over 3 feet in some sections. There were some trees across the trail. Most easy to go over / under - some take more effort and really need to be cleared before this is an 'easy' trail again.

Again - others made it with no snowshoes all the way to the trail, but after 1 mile on the trail they were very helpful, especially around the lake.

The lake itself is still frozen. My GF and dog walked on it, although I wouldn't recommend it.

Camped at the first 'camp' sign at Lake Dorothy. A few feet of snow here still.

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Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer — Mar 22, 2014 — rnuech
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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The road was open, however there was at least 5-7 inches of snow for the first mile or so. We stoppe...
The road was open, however there was at least 5-7 inches of snow for the first mile or so. We stopped, parked on the side of the road, and walked on the road. If we had snow shoes this would have been much easier. The further we got up, the more snow (probably up to 12-16 inches), and the tire marks disappeared. We didn't actually even make it to the trail head because of the snow on the road. Will wait a couple months before going back to make sure the road is cleared.
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Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer — Jan 30, 2014 — Woodicker & Co
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail
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Road to trailhead is currently open, with about 2inches of snow on the ground & snowing steadily. We...
Road to trailhead is currently open, with about 2inches of snow on the ground & snowing steadily. We were the only vehicle in the lot today, which was a rare treat, especially for this popular trail. Trail is in pretty good shape, except for the 3 good size blow-downs on the first section of trail before the bridge. The first 2 are fairly easy to bypass, but that 3rd one is a challenge, but doable. Once we hit the bridge, the snow really started to accumulate on the trail, a good 4-5 inches of near powder, all the way to the lake. We made it up & back with just poles, no need for snowshoes or microspikes today.
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Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer — Jan 26, 2014 — Janice Van Cleve
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail
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This trail is blocked by a large blowdown logjam about 3/4 of the way along the east shore of Lake D...
This trail is blocked by a large blowdown logjam about 3/4 of the way along the east shore of Lake Dorothy, just past the two islands. This will take major work to remove.

The road into Lake Dorothy from Money Creek campground is about 10 miles and has some potholes but is clear of snow. The trail is dry up to the bridge over Camp Robber Creek. There is one old rotted blowdown to duck under within 200' of the trailhead. There is a nasty multiple large blowdown a quarter of a mile in from the trailhead. People are either scrambling over the top of the logs or bushwhacking down and around them. On both sides of the bridge there is slippery frost on the wood steps but the path is clear again until the step climb up to Lake Dorothy's spillway.

The series of crib and board steps up to the spillway are icy and we put on yaxtrax for the rest of the hike. Sometimes along the shore this meant walking on dirt with trax but so be it. The assurance of stable footing on the ice and snow was worth it.

The lake is frozen over and the sun was shining. The lake ice made a curious groaning or burping noise which I have never experienced before. Blocked by the log jam, we found a sunny place on the lake shore for lunch and turned back.
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Lake Dorothy - Lake Bear - Lake Deer — Dec 14, 2013 — AndrewB
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Mud/Rockslide | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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The snow and ice covered landscape made for spectacular views along the hike to Dorothy Lake. Across...
The snow and ice covered landscape made for spectacular views along the hike to Dorothy Lake. Across the lake sheets of ice could be heard cracking from the cliffs and falling to the rocks below. Overall we enjoyed the easy to moderate hike and the winter escape it provided.
   
The trail to Dorothy Lake is snow and ice covered, but remains passable if care is taken when crossing the ice sheets. If your destination is Bear or Deer Lake, the trail becomes more difficult to travel. The trail along east side of the lake is blown shut and ice covered in a few areas making it difficult to stay on the trail/mountain side. At the south end of Dorothy Lake there is a large blowdown stretching into the lake that appeared to include a large bolder in the trail. At this point we could not find an easy way around the obstruction with the given weather and turned back.

The forest service road was snow covered but easily passable with a few blowdowns that had been cleared.
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lake dorothy gwc.JPG
WTA worked here!
2011, 2012, 2013
Location
Dorothy Lake (#1072)
Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain 1550 ft
Highest Point 3800 ft
Features
Lakes
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Guidebooks & Maps
Take a Hike Seattle: Hikes Within Two Hours of the City, Scott Leonard, Moon Outdoors
Green Trails Skykomish No. 175

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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  • Trail Work 2013 Frontcountry
  • Trail Work 2012
  • Trail Work 2011
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